April 8, 2021

How to Unleash Your Team’s Creativity: 4 Easy Steps

Creative people are great at solving problems. They can view challenges from different perspectives and find solutions regardless of constraints. Plus, creative people will often solve these problems without being told to; the relationship between creativity and proactivity is well established.

Who wouldn’t want a team full of these superstars at their disposal? No wonder some business leaders feel creativity will be the most important key to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

That said, if a business owner wants to enjoy all the benefits of a creative workforce, they’ll have to do a little more than simply employ creative people. Creativity thrives under certain conditions, and it perishes under others.

Hiring creative people is only the first step. You also need to create an environment in which they can be creative. Here’s how:

1. Encourage Self-Development

By “encourage,” I don’t simply mean “talk to your people about how awesome skill development is.” You need to meaningfully incentivize employee development by making it as easy as possible for your employees to refine and expand their skill sets. Offer to pay for one Udemy course every month. Buy a subscription to MasterClass or Skillshare. Give your staff members some concrete way to develop.

Remember, skill development is about more than making your team members better at their jobs. It’s also about stimulating their creativity by creating a culture of learning.  Don’t feel there has to be a direct correlation between a person’s current role in your company and the skills they develop.

2. Get the Most From Your Meetings

It isn’t possible — or even preferable — to avoid meetings altogether. But many of us have personally experienced tedious, redundant meetings that interrupt our creative flows. It’s difficult to find your groove again after sitting through a 90-minute roundtable that had no agenda, went absolutely nowhere, and didn’t need your attendance in the first place.

But that doesn’t mean that we should abandon meetings altogether. We just need to get smarter about how we coordinate them.

Patrick Lencioni’s creative take on corporate culture, Death by Meeting, provides some excellent insight into how to turn bad meetings into good ones. You just have to read between the lines a little. In short: encourage constructive conflict, stick to a structure, and model good meetings through your own behavior.

3. Don’t Interrupt Your Team’s Sleep Schedule

A good night’s rest is absolutely critical for creativity. Your brain needs time to recharge if you want it regularly generate new ideas and solve difficult problems with out-of-the-box thinking. That’s why it’s vital you give your staff members some undisturbed downtime.

Sure, this may be difficult to do when half your team is spread out across the earth, but dealing with this inconvenience is less of a hassle than depriving your people of rest. Don’t put your employees in a position where they have to be attending late-night Zoom meetings or responding to emails in the predawn hours of the morning.

Encourage all your managers to respect the sleeping patterns of their team members, no matter how disruptive this may be to operations. If your team members aren’t getting enough quality sleep, your company will eventually pay a much higher price than the inconvenience of having to move meetings around.

4. Find a Deadline Balance

Research from a group of Harvard academics found people often struggle to think creatively about business problems when preoccupied with a looming deadline. At the same time, creativity is suppressed when there is no deadline pressure at all.

The takeaway: The most creatively conducive deadlines are ambitious but realistic. A deadline the exerts just the right amount of pressure will often result in a more creative solution than one that gives the team either too little or too much time.

In many cases, delivery dates for particular projects are determined by internal circumstances and external factors like client expectations. It’s not always possible to choose the ideal deadline. However, that doesn’t mean project managers should disregard the importance of deadlines to creativity. Instead, encourage all managers to keep this principle in mind when they suggest delivery dates.

Finding great people to work for you is a serious challenge — but getting the most out of your employees once they’re on board is relatively easy. If you’ve gone through the effort of recruiting highly creative people for your company, don’t make the mistake of thinking your responsibility ends when the employment contract is signed.

Put in the work — and, really, it’s not all that much at all — to foster an environment where every employee can perform at their best. It’s as simple as investing in self-development, getting meetings right, letting your people get enough sleep, and setting the right deadlines.

John Hurley is a professional geek. He’s obsessed with trying out the latest technologies and delivering amazing results to his mostly SaaS and eCommerce clients. 

Read more in Hiring Process

John Hurley is a professional geek. He's obsessed with trying out the latest technologies and delivering amazing results to his mostly SaaS and eCommerce clients. Romantic comedies are his not-so-guilty pleasure.